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My First Prayer

NOTE: This is the first in a series chronicling some portions of my journey with Christ.

Life is a transformational process, one in which our Lord is always calling us. He may be calling us to Him for the first time, or He might be drawing us into a deeper relationship with Him, and a greater understanding of who He is. Through this process there are those touchstone moments that remind us of our critical need for God.

For me, one such moment came on December 26, 1976—the first time I remember praying. But it didn’t come where you might think. It wasn’t during a quiet moment of solitude in my home or in a house of worship. It wasn’t after I learned of some terrible news. No, I first prayed in a firestorm of bullets in a lonely, remote corner of Rhodesia. And I will never forget it.

Long before I came to know Christ, I joined the Rhodesian police force and for a time served as a detective. I worked routine cases as any modern police detective would, though nothing ever seems routine in Africa. However, during my time in the police, the Rhodesian Bush War escalated and as a young police officer I was trained in the Police Anti-Terrorist Unit and spent a fair amount of time defending the country against armed insurgents.

On this particular night, I was leading a reconnaissance team into the jungle. Reports indicated that terrorist forces had been infiltrating a particular region and our task was to confirm or deny these reports.

As we assessed our possible routes through the heavy bush, we opted for the shortest distance, even though it was more dangerous. It was a mistake that nearly proved fatal.

Easing into the dense bush, we walked right into what would be known as a “kill zone,” a small area that makes those inside of it easy targets due to the surrounding geographical landscape. In this instance, two small hills arose on each side of our path, putting us in grave danger from terrorist forces.

Before we knew what was happening, bullets rained down on our small group. We took cover and began to defend ourselves. The noise and the firing seemed to go on forever as bullets whizzed past us. And that was when I remember praying feverishly.

I hadn’t necessarily been an atheist, but I certainly didn’t believe God could impact my life. At that moment, I didn’t care. We needed divine intervention. We needed a miracle. So I prayed. It wasn’t fancy or even memorable. But it was real—and so was the result.

As suddenly as it had all started, the firing stopped. The terrorists vanishing into the dense foliage. I began checking on my small group of men. Everyone had survived. No one was even hurt. We quickly fell back and set up a ‘counter ambush’ in a more appropriate location. Later reports of those who visited the site, investigating the hill from which the heavily armed insurgents had fired upon us, revealed a large number of shell casings littering the area. I wondered how we had ever survived.

God had saved me. He had saved all our lives. There was no other rational explanation for what had happened. I still didn’t know what I thought about God, but I definitely had a lot to think about.

More than a decade would pass before I made my decision to follow Christ, but I’ll never forget what happened in that lonely part of Rhodesia that day. It reminds that each time I pray, I’m not just sending up wishful flares to heaven—I am communicating with a powerful God who hears and understands me. It’s a truth we must always remember as we seek God daily in prayer.


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